Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 14

This was a transitional session, switching from the previous GM's (Kent's) adventure and the Fate Core system to setting up my adventure. Obviously, I'll be acting as the GM for the duration of my adventure, though how long that will take is very much up in the air. It could take four sessions, or it could take fourteen, depending on what the players decide to do and how they react to the scenario I've created.

It also depends on how well we adapt to the new system I'm trying out: ICONS. I've been talking about how Rifts is a superhero setting for so long, I figured it would make sense to try and use an actual superhero system to run it, and ICONS is close enough to both TSR's original Marvel Superheroes RPG (which we're all quite familiar with) and Fate (which we've been using for roughly a year now) to seem like a good fit. ICONS is also simple enough that it's been relatively easy to stat up Rifts monsters, NPCs, and equipment using the system. I'm using the new(ish) Assembled Edition of the game, though thus far I've had very little opportunity to give the rules a real workout. Whether or not it will suit our playstyle better than Fate Core remains to be seen. (For the record, I do not have many serious problems with Fate Core as a system.)

So, this session was basically winding down Kent's Caribbean adventure, followed by the setup for mine.

The Roster (with Fate/ICONS "high concept" aspects/qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female Titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Kat, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Session Recap
With two of the three Deathweaver spider-demons slain, our heroes and the Range Knight Irregulars set about ransacking the treasure chambers of their pyramids like true adventurers. Though the surviving Deathweaver apparently brought her hoard with her when she escaped, several million credits' worth of gold and gemstones remain in the other pyramids, to be split amongst the participants. They also find a pair of techno-wizardry flaming swords and an unusual spellbook that seems to date from the age of Man. The currently nearly sixteen-foot-tall Max takes the book and one of the swords, and expresses mild concern that the Giant spell he cast during the battle with the thunder lizard hasn't worn off. In the meantime, he fashions a makeshift loincloth for himself out of one of the tapestries hanging in the temple-pyramid.

The real prizes are a pair of original, pre-Rifts Glitter Boy powered armor suits, still in their original Northamerican Economic-Military Alliance radiation-shielded crates. Valerie, in particular, is astounded by this find, and lays claim to one of the suits on behalf of the group, telling her comrades that selling it would probably net them enough to set up a permanent base of operations in Serendipity. The RKI warriors point out that having both of the suits would be a tremendous boon to their goal of bringing some semblance of security to the Yucatan. Max, who has an aspect called Always There For Val, fiercely comes to the defense of Valerie's claim, insisting that "we're splitting the spoils 50/50, so we get one of the mecha," and the Range Knights elect not to make an issue out of it. Max quietly announces to his companions that he has been unable to cancel the Giant spell he placed upon himself, and that his techno-wizard power armor, which adapted to his magical transformation by reconfiguring itself into a sort of gauntlet/pauldron, is not responding to his mental commands.

Meanwhile, RKI's shifter, Erik, seals the active rifts that the Deathweavers had put in place within each of the pyramids in an impressive display of arcane might. A serpentine woman emerges from the jungles, accompanied by the priestess that Max had spoken with earlier, and reveals herself to be the goddess that slept within the egg. Our heroes accept her thanks, as Max again wonders exactly what a "goddess" is. With the power of the demon-spiders apparently broken, our heroes and the Range Knight Irregulars decide to return to the village of Belize to celebrate. During the journey back, Max, still giant-sized, attempts to wrench off his techno-wizardry armor, to no avail.

Back at the village, they find that Annejah and Asha have finished overseeing the repairs to the Sunstar Aegis. By this point, Max -- still giant-sized -- has gone from trying to pull the armor off to simply sitting and hugging his knees to his chest. Valerie expresses concern for her old partner, but Max says he's just making sure he doesn't knock anybody over. Embarrassed by her attention, Max walks away, saying he'll be fine. Valerie confers with Kat and Arisis, then asks Erik to see if he can ascertain the nature of their friend's magical problem. However, not long after the shifter catches up with Max, the armor abruptly drops off Max's arm, and the young mystic returns (now once again naked) to his original stature. Max hurriedly gathers his giant loincloth around him, and Arisis picks up the now-inert TW armor (more accurately, the giant, greyish crystalline arm that it has become) and loads it into the Sunstar Aegis along with the rest of the group's gear and treasure.

The group says their goodbyes to Etza and Black Puma, who both decide to remain in Belize. Before they leave, Sir Edward, the leader of the Range Knight Irregulars, urges Arisis to contact the cyber-knights in Serendipity and inform them that he and his compatriots are still there, and still fighting. Then, as promised, Erik clears the way through the dimensional storm for our heroes' return to Serendipity, and before long, they reach their destination -- soon to become their home.

Having contacted their benefactor via radio as soon as they were in range, our heroes find a warm welcome awaiting them in Serendipity. An overjoyed Nysa meets them at the docks, and her armed entourage spirits her twin sisters away to safety. Nysa offers the group lodging at her penthouse once again, which they accept with thanks. They spend the next several days alternately recuperating and partying hard at the Serendipity Social Club, the establishment owned by Nysa. (Much drinking and salacious dancing ensues. Valerie and Kat start a friendly arm-wrestling contest at the club, which Kat wins, overcoming the strength of Valerie's bionic arms with clever leverage and pure guile.) With Nysa's connections, they also sell the Glitter Boy they recovered from the Yucatan, and over the next several weeks, use the funds to set up a fully equipped riverside compound and base at Gun Pointe. Our heroes are now officially a mercenary company based in Serendipity and known as Solutions @ Gun Pointe (or S@GP for short).

Arisis keeps her promise to Sir Edward and reaches out to the cyber-knights stationed in Serendipity, who are thrilled to learn of their comrades' survival and begin planning a relief mission, one which Arisis intends to be a part of.

Valerie spends much of her time directly overseeing construction of the headquarters, stripping and cleaning all of her gear, and other such headhunter-ish things (as well as soaking in the luxury of Nysa's penthouse). Kat, an investigator at heart, wastes no time in hitting the streets, making connections, and setting up a network of street informants.

Max, somewhat mindful of becoming too dependent on Nysa's generosity, spends much of the setup time exploring Serendipity and familiarizing himself with his new home -- particularly with the neighborhood of Jugtown -- and moves into the small hut he has reserved for himself at the S@GP compound as soon as he is able. A visit to the local Wizards' Guild is unproductive, but as soon as he returns, he receives a surprise visit from Nysa, who surprises him further by formally asking him to give her tutelage in the mystic arts.

The sixteen-year-old Max, to his credit, doesn't let the shock of receiving this request from a statuesque 8-foot-tall goddess show (much). Instead, he simply says he'll need to consider it, and asks Nysa to "come back tomorrow," which she recognizes as a sign of acceptance. Max becomes Nysa's tutor, and as the weeks pass, the two forge an unusual bond of friendship in the process of plumbing the depths of arcane metaphysics and merging with the supernatural together.

(At this point, Kent ceded the GM chair to me.)

Solutions at Gun Pointe are celebrating the completion of the construction of their compound by having a barbecue at the pier that adjoins their property when a fan boat manned by three Black Fortress mercenaries arrives. S@GP are on the alert as soon as they catch sight of the mercs' Dead Boy armor, and make it clear that the interruption is unwelcome. The pilot of the fan boat offers some token apologies and says that Black Fortress simply wished to welcome some fellow mercenaries to the neighborhood, but realizes that disembarking would probably be unwise. He and his men move on before long. Max, disappointed by the apparent presence of a Coalition element in Serendipity, voices his intention to visit the Social that evening. Kat gets the word out to her "Baker's Street boys" to keep an eye on Black Fortress' activities.

S@GP once again encounter their old allies, Mian and Reez, in the Heroes' Lounge of the Serendipity Social Club. Mian informs them that she'd been hoping to run into them, and produces an electronic tablet. The martial artist shows them a video of a glittering, high-tech city street, with giant advertising screens that appear to display images of S@GP members. Mian explains that somehow, someone has produced footage of the group battling (and defeating) the Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Africa. Mian tells them the film has "gone viral" on the extra-dimensional planet nicknamed Phase World, which Mian and Reez call home. Mian further explains that she and Reez have the means to travel between Serendipity and Phase World, and suggests that S@GP accompany them back there. She also answers Valerie's questions about Hard Repo, confirming that they (and their starship, the Cashier's Cage) have great notoriety on Phase World and throughout the Three Galaxies. 

Meanwhile, Kat has a brief encounter with a young and rather obnoxious juicer who repeatedly introduces himself as "Knucks" and asks the psi-stalker if she's "going to the tournament". Kat largely ignores him, but also learns from one of her contacts that Black Fortress is aware that she's watching them. Valerie suggests the group take Mian up on her offer to travel to Phase World the day after tomorrow, and that Mian and Reez stay at S@GP's compound until then. Max expresses hope that he might be able to learn what went wrong with his magical power armor there, since neither he nor any of the local techno-wizards he has consulted have been able to figure it out.

The following morning, Black Fortress attempts a second social call. This time, S@GP headquarters is visited by the psi-stalker Jesse John Ross, who cordially invites them to attend a fighting tournament organized by the local Cyber-Knight militia. Though S@GP are disgusted with Ross' treatment of his female Dog Boy companions, they cannot deny their curiosity, and visit the location delineated on the flyer the psi-stalker left them: a "field of battle" near the Cyber-Knight encampment.

S@GP are met at the tournament location by a haughty elven cyber-knight named Sir Shanidar, who invites them to participate, but flatly informs Arisis that she will be unable to participate, as she is "simply too large." He likewise excludes Max based on his age. Shanidar's daughter, the Dame Illiaema, chastises her father for his boorishness, but his decision stands. (I granted Arisis' player a Determination Point as I invoked her Larger Than Life quality to her detriment.) Valerie and Kat are informed that if they agree, this, the Third Serendipity Grand Invitational Tournament, could be host to the following non-lethal, close-combat-only opening bouts:

Begnijo Mbibe (Gun Street Girls) -- Juicer vs.
Knucks St. Crux (Wild Hurricane) -- Juicer

Rachel Bailey (Quangs/Brotherhood) -- Titan Heavy PA vs.
Jim J. Wynn (Sophisticated Professional Services) -- Glitter Boy PA

Brigadier Omar Espinoza (Black Fortress) -- full conversion borg vs.
Kat (S@GP) -- custom PA

Valerie Cain (S@GP) -- Saber Cyclone PA vs.
Auunio (Naruni) -- Naruni Techno-Warrior PA

Raymond “Tracer” Chen (Northern Gun) -- NG Cougar PA vs.
Dame Illiaema (Cyber-Knights) -- partial borg in NG Samson PA

Valerie is astounded and dismayed to see the priceless antique mint-condition Glitter Boy that S@GP sold to fund their base in the lists. Its pilot, Jim J. Wynn, seems unfazed by her outrage, however; in fact, he has little reaction to her whatsoever. The other pilots that are present keep largely to themselves, with the exception of Raymond "Tracer" Chen, a professional mecha fighter who has been brought all the way from Ishpeming via hover-semi to show off the capabilities of Northern Gun's new Cougar power armor against one of the manufacturer's older models. Chen is insufferably gregarious with his self-promotion, but Kat and Valerie agree to participate in the tournament nonetheless. Max hopes that Reez and Mian will be willing to wait around a little longer...

S@GP HQ by K-Bonifield